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Iccho Itoh

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Peace dove mourns
mayor nukes don't stop
felled by gun

~ Jim Stoffels

1995 letter from Mayor Iccho Itoh to World Citizens for Peace

Nagasaki mayor assassinated

Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Itoh, a leader in the forefront of the global campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, was shot April 17, 2007, in front of his campaign office by a lone gunman and died hours later. The assassin, Tetsuya Shiroo, shot Mayor Itoh from behind at close range after he got out of his campaign car and fired another bullet into his back after he had fallen down, according to police sources. The attack took place in front of many passers-by, and the assailant was immediately subdued by Mr. Itoh’s supporters. Mr. Itoh was running for his fourth term as mayor in elections to be held the following Sunday.

Mr. Itoh arrived at Nagasaki University Hospital sometime after 8:00 pm in critical condition. His heart and lungs had already stopped functioning, officials said. After placing Mr. Itoh on a heart-lung machine, doctors proceeded with fours hours of emergency surgery in an attempt to stop internal bleeding. However, Mr. Itoh, surrounded by his wife, Toyoko, and other family members, died shortly after 2:00 am on April 18. Both bullets had ruptured the heart of the 61-year-old mayor.

Investigators said Tetsuya Shiroo, 59, was a senior member of Suishin-kai, a gang organization affiliated with Japan’s largest crime syndicate. Police said Shiroo committed the crime over a personal grudge against Mayor Itoh and the city government. Shiroo had grievances against the city over an accident four years ago in which his car was damaged by a pothole near a public works construction site. Shiroo was also reportedly upset with the city for denying contracts to a construction company with which his gang was closely linked. According to sources, Shiroo recently told other Suishin-kai gang members of his unforgiving grudge against Mayor Itoh and threatened to kill him.

Born only two weeks before the U.S. atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, Mayor Itoh devoted much of his life to making sure that nuclear weapons would never be used again. Since taking office in 1995, he also served as vice president of Mayors for Peace, an organization of 1,608 cities around the world that work together to abolish nuclear weapons and build genuine and lasting peace. Testifying before the International Court of Justice in 1995, Mayor Itoh argued it was clear that use of nuclear weapons constituted a violation of international law. He repeatedly lodged protests against all nuclear weapons tests by nuclear powers.

At the 2005 Review Conference for the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in New York, Mayor Itoh represented Mayors for Peace by helping to lead a gathering of 40,000 people from around the world on a march through the streets of the city. He stood up before world leaders at the United Nations to forcefully present the expectations of the two A-bombed cities that the nuclear powers will accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.

Mayor Itoh also called for Japan’s continued commitment to its non-nuclear principles in opposition to suggestions that Japan acquire a nuclear weapons capability following North Korea’s nuclear test in 2006.

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba, in a statement issued as president of Mayors for Peace, said: “I hereby express my great respect and admiration for Mayor Itoh’s achievements and offer my heartfelt condolences and prayers for his peaceful repose. I vow to inherit his passion and, working with the 1,608 members of Mayors for Peace, do everything in my power to bring about the truly peaceful, nuclear-weapon-free world he so strongly desired.”

Tomihisa Taue, 50, the new mayor of Nagasaki, worked as a city government employee for 26 years. He worked mainly in tourism and public relations. His last job was statistics section chief.

Mr. Taue is so big-hearted that he is known among his colleagues as “Buddha Taue.” He is never arrogant, supporters say, but he is candid about his opinions. Mayor Taue wants to continue to promote his predecessor’s message of peace.

– edited from The Asahi Shimbun and MayorsforPeace